Japan in a Word
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophical concept seen in traditional Japanese arts, such as 茶道 (sadō; tea ceremony), 俳句 (haiku; a Japanese poem in 5-7-5 syllabic form) and 陶芸 (tōgei; pottery). Its meaning cannot be easily defined with language. Something that is wabi-sabi evokes an inner appreciation of its quiet simplicity and its changing form over time. For example, think back to your visit to an old and lonely temple or quiet Japanese Zen garden. Were you touched by the beauty of its simplicity?
Like the concept it represents, the meaning of the word wabi-sabi is interpreted differently in the West. Since the beginning of 2017, wabi-sabi has been trending in media in the US, becoming the latest lifestyle concept after 2016’s Danish word hygge. In France, you can visit the WABI-SABI pavilion at the ジャパン・エキスポ (Japan Expo) in July 2017, which will introduce 伝統文化 (dentō bunka; traditional arts) of Japan. Wabi-sabi may become a universal word in the near future, used in not only Japanese culture but also the areas ofファッション (fasshion; fashion) and インテリア (interia; interior design).
© Kyoto Tourism Council
プレミアムフライデー (puremiamu furaidē; Premium Friday) is a government-backed campaign aimed at boosting Japan’s consumer spending. Launched on 24 February 2017, the initiative encourages companies to let their employees leave work at 3 pm on the last Friday of each month and invites 消費者 (shōhisya; comsumers) to spend more on their “long” weekend.
小売業 (kourigyō; retailers) and サービス業 (sābisugyō; service-sector) companies are joining the movement. For example,レストラン (resutoran; restaurants), デパート (depāto; departments stores), ホテル (hoteru; hotels), and 旅行会社 (ryokōgaisha; travel agents) have started offering special rates and discounts on Premium Friday.
The 政府 (seifu; government) is also spearheading the campaign as a part of the 働き方改革 (hatarakikata kaikaku; ”work style reform”) to reduce Japan’s long working hours. However, it will take time for プレミアムフライデー campaign to take root. Travellers to Japan should keep an eye out for good deals on the last Friday of each month.
© Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau
The word 聖地巡礼 (seichi junrei) means pilgrimage. In particular, it is 巡礼 (junrei; pilgrimage) to some kind of 聖地 (seichi; holy ground). However, this word has also come to refer to a kind of holy ground that you may not expect.
The settings of many of Japan’s anime series and films are based on real world locations, which fans sometimes seek out and visit. This alternative 聖地巡礼 involves travelling to the ロケ地 (rokechi; location of filming) to experience a piece of one’s favourite show. Many visitors try to recreate shots from the show in their own photos.
One very recent addition is the hit movie 君の名は (kimi no na wa; Your Name), released in 2016. The film brought a large number of visitors to the regional town of 飛騨市 (hida shi; Hida), in Gifu prefecture, in addition to other locations like the stairs in the photo, a spot in Tokyo not far from 四ッ谷駅 (yotsuya eki; Yotsuya station). An older example is the animeらき☆すた (raki suta; Lucky Star). One of the main ロケ地 for this show is 鷲宮神社(washinomiya jinja; Washinomiya Shrine) in Saitama prefecture. Due to the popularity of the show, this place has now become a hub for all things Lucky Star. Even the 絵馬 (ema; wooden plaque marked with a wish) left by visitors are adorned with cute drawings from the show.
Nao Iizuka (CC BY 2.0) (Flickr)
風子戦記 @mo_om921 (Twitter)
Here’s one sure way to beat the heat this summer; head to Hokkaido! Just imagine that you’re cooling off in the winter climate, surrounded by all that 雪 (yuki; snow). While you’re there, you go racing down the slopes on your skis, churning up the 粉雪 (kona yuki; powdered snow) as you fly past, enjoying the cool air. You stop at the bottom of the hill and bend to pick up a handful of snow, watching as the fine powder trickles through your fingers. That is さらさら(sara sara), the fine texture of the powdered snow on the ski slopes.
If you’d rather slow things down, why not try building your own 雪だるま(yuki daruma; snowman)? If you head to a slightly warmer area, you’ll find ぼたん雪(botan yuki). This kind of snow is made up of larger flakes, and clumps together better than 粉雪(kona yuki). Better yet, you can 丸める(marumeru; make round) this snow into a 雪玉(yuki dama; snowball). Just be careful, or you might get caught up in a 雪合戦(yuki gassen; snowball fight)!
Miki Yoshihito, 2016 [CC BY 2.0] (Flickr)
Mark Resch, 2006 [CC BY 2.0] (Flickr)